The 2018 French Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XCV Pirelli Grand Prix de France, was the eighth round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Paul Ricard on 24 June 2018. The race saw F1 racing return to French soil for the first time since 2008, using the full length version of the Paul Ricard circuit.
In qualifying, Lewis Hamilton took his seventy-fifth pole position, while his teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified alongside him on the front row, and championship leader Sebastian Vettel qualified third on the grid.
In the race, Vettel made a slightly better start off the line than Hamilton and Bottas, but locked up at the first corner and went into the back of Bottas, damaging Vettel's front wing and puncturing Bottas' tyre. On the same lap, Pierre Gasly lost control at Turn 3 and crashed into Esteban Ocon, putting both of the Frenchmen out of the race and deploying the safety car, thus allowing Vettel and Bottas to catch up to the field following their pit stops. After the safety car came in on lap 5, Hamilton stayed in first place for much of the race while Vettel and Bottas both moved up back into the points. Hamilton went on to take his sixty-fifth victory, also putting him back in the lead of the Drivers' Championship. Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen finished second and third, respectively.
After a ten-year absence, the French Grand Prix would finally return to the Formula One calendar in 2018, having last been staged at the unpopular Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. For 2018, however, Circuit Paul Ricard would be used, a venue which had last hosted the French Grand Prix in 1990, although there had been a lot of work at the circuit since then. Indeed, while the overall layout remained largely the same as it had been in the 1990s, various revisions off the track itself had been made to make "Le Castellet" the first Centre of Excellence by the FIA. The race would be supported by the FIA Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series and the Porsche Supercup as usual.
Ahead of their home race, Renault revealed that they had secured a new deputy chief designer, poached from the all conquering Mercedes team. Indeed, in the wave of fresh investment and recruitment, the French squad had signed up Mercedes' "head of powertrain integration" Matthew Harman, whom had overseen Mercedes' hybrid project since 2011. His arrival would have a major effect on Renault's 2019 powertrain design, with their R.S.18 unlikely to go through a major upgrade to the powertrain for the rest of the season.
Elsewhere, around 750 km (466 mi) to the north, the Circuit de la Sarthe hosted the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that featured two time World Champion Fernando Alonso. Furthermore, Alonso would not only compete at Le Mans but win the race outright, piloting the #8 Toyota with ex-F1 combatants Kazuki Nakajima and Sébastien Buemi. Other F1 alumini at Le Mans included Jean-Éric Vergne, who won the LMP2 class with G-Drive, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button, whose SMP Racing BR1 expired in the final hour, and ex-F1 entrants Manor Racing, although their challenge faltered early on.
Timed somewhat to take advantage of the fact that the motor racing world was still focusing on the fallout from la Sarthe, Red Bull announced that they would finally be cancelling their contract with Renault for 2019. Instead, Red Bull Racing would be powered by Honda for the 2019 season, after extensive in-house comparisons between themselves and sister effort Toro Rosso, whom had been signed with Honda for the 2018 season. The deal, which was to last until the proposed engine changes plotted for 2021, was thought to be better for Red Bull in the long term after their relationship with Renault broke down in 2015.
In terms of the tyre choices for the return of F1 to France, title sponsors Pirelli brought along their mid-range set of compounds: "ultrasoft", "supersoft" and "soft". Furthermore, the tyres themselves were expected to be modified to tackle the unusual tarmac at the "High Tech Test Track", with a 4mm reduction in tread depth to reduce overheating. The issue of overheating tyres had first appeared during the Barcelona Tests, which were conducted on tarmac similar to that at "Le Castellet". Pirelli concluded that a reduced tread depth would reduce the amount of heat that the tyres could retain, and had duly tried out their theory at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in the season.
As for the individual selections by the teams, the most standout choice had been made by Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen picking the fewest number of "ultrasofts". Their selection was therefore the "hardest" in the field, with three sets of "supersofts" and "softs" also chosen, with the Red Bull not particularly fond of the "ultrasoft" tyre. In contrast, Williams had committed to a more aggressive selection, with Lance Stroll taking ten "ultrasoft" sets, two "supersofts" and just one set of "softs".
Into the Championship fight and victory in Canada, combined with Lewis Hamilton's relatively poor afternoon, had propelled Sebastian Vettel to the top of the World Championship, the German ahead by a single point. Indeed, with two thirds of the season still to run it seemed as if there would be a season long duel for the title, with their gap over the rest of the field climbing to 34 points in Montreal. The man in third, at the back of that 34 point gap, would be Valtteri Bottas, whom had overtaken Daniel Ricciardo having claimed second for the fourth time in seven races.
In the Constructors' Championship, it had been a fairly inconsequential day in Montreal at the top of the field, with Ferrari only able to chip a couple of points out of Mercedes's lead. Behind, Red Bull-TAG Heuer arrived in France in a solid third, just hanging on to the lead duo, while Renault had further reinforced their fourth place in the table. McLaren-Renault, meanwhile, had endured a miserable weekend but retained fifth, although Force India-Mercedes had closed the gap between themselves and the former Champions to twelve points.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1:32.527||3||1:33.243||2||1:39.738||10|
|8||Romain Grosjean||Haas-Ferrari||1:33.318||6||1:33.699||6||No Time||18|
|9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber-Ferrari||1:34.592||14||No Time||20||1:38.450||8|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||1:33.685||8||1:34.535||10||1:38.317||7|
|11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.719||9||1:36.080||19||1:39.641||9|
|20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||1:34.108||10||1:34.457||9||No Time||16|
|27||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault||1:34.993||18||1:35.067||11||No Time||19|
|28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||1:34.664||15||1:35.697||15||No Time||17|
|31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1:34.484||12||1:35.705||16||1:40.087||11|
|33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||1:33.331||7||1:33.271||3||No Time||20|
|55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||1:34.258||11||1:35.086||12||1:34.953||2|
|4||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||2||1:31.531||4||1:30.818||4||1:30.705||4|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-TAG Heuer||6||1:31.910||8||1:31.538||5||1:30.895||5|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz, Jr.||Renault||9||1:32.394||9||1:32.016||7||1:32.126||7|
|10||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas-Ferrari||7||1:32.083||6||1:31.472||10||no time||10|
|11||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||13||1:32.786||11||1:32.075||11|
|13||11||Sergio Pérez||Force India-Mercedes||12||1:32.692||13||1:32.454||13|
|14||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso-Honda||10||1:32.447||14||1:32.460||14|
|17||28||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso-Honda||17||1:33.025||20*|
|107% time: 1:37.659|
- * Hartley was given a 35-place grid penalty for using his fourth engine, turbo and MGU-H, and his third MGU-K, Energy Store and Control Electronics.
It was a warm afternoon in southern France ahead of the 95th French Grand Prix, with their air temperature hovering around 24°C. However, the long hours of sunshine during the support races for GP3 Series and Formula Two had pushed the track temperature to 42°C, aiding those who were starting on ultrasoft Pirelli tyres. Regardless, it was Lewis Hamilton who led the field around on the formation lap, starting on the longer lasting supersoft tyres.
A fairly even getaway from Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas on the front row ensured that it was a Mercedes one-two off the line, although Sebastian Vettel, starting third, got a strong tow after the initial launch. The German duly tucked his Ferrari in the wake of Hamilton's car to drag slightly ahead of Bottas, although with the Finn running half a car's width from his teammate there was no room for Vettel to go. As such, the #5 Ferrari found itself boxed in heading into the first corner, although Vettel knew he had to get ahead of Bottas to stand any chance of challenging Hamilton during the race.
Unfortunately the lack of downforce, combined with a late decision to back out of the move, saw Vettel hit the rear left of Bottas' car as they entered turn one, pitching the Finn into a spin. The chasing pack scattered around them, with Max Verstappen cutting the second corner to claim second, while Carlos Sainz, Jr. weaved his Renault through to claim third. Vettel rejoined in the middle of the pack with heavy front wing damage, while Bottas had to limp around with rear-floor damage and a shredded rear-left tyre.
However, before a VSC or full safety car could be called upon there would be another accident, completely unrelated to the one at the first corner. The clash this time was between two Frenchmen, for Pierre Gasly decided to make a late lunge inside of Esteban Ocon into turn three, only for the Force India pilot to make an equally late dive to the apex of the right hander. Inevitably both would receive heavy damage, Gasly hitting the rear right of Ocon's car so hard that it ripped the wheel from the #31 car, while smashing his own front suspension and steering. Ocon spun to a stop before turn four as the field poured across the inside of that corner, while Gasly dragged his car around to turn five before giving up.
That accident ensured that a full safety car was required to drag the debris away, with Hamilton still leading from Verstappen and Sainz as the safety car picked them up at the end of the lap. In the middle of the field, meanwhile, Vettel swept into the pits for a new nose and soft tyres, a switch that was also made by Fernando Alonso and the two Williams'. Bottas, meanwhile, dragged his hobbled Mercedes in half a lap behind the pack, and, with no immediate repair available, was duly sent back onto the circuit with a fresh set of soft Pirellis.
With the damaged cars and debris dragged away from Paul Ricard's expanse of tarmac the Grand Prix resumed, with Hamilton sprinting clear of Verstappen at the start of lap six to secure his lead. Indeed, that gave Sainz a brief shot at attacking the Dutchman at the start, while Charles Leclerc attacked Kevin Magnussen for fifth, those two having won big during the first lap chaos. The Monegasque rookie would, however, succumb to the attentions of Kimi Räikkönen during lap six, with the Finn breezing past down the Mistral.
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso made a rare mistake at the back of the field, sending himself into a spin at turn three, gifting Vettel and Bottas a place each. Indeed, those two would become the main source of entertainment during the early stages, with Vettel passing Marcus Ericsson and Stoffel Vandoorne in short order, while Bottas breezed past Brendon Hartley. Up ahead, meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo would blast past Sainz into turn one, while Räikkönen elbowed his way past Magnussen into the Mistral chicane.
In the middle of Vettel's charge came news of a five second time penalty for the German for causing a collision, an odd punishment given the fact that he was in a far better position than the man whom he had made contact. Indeed, within moments of receiving notice of the penalty, Vettel was diving the #5 Ferrari down the inside of Nico Hülkenberg through turn eleven for tenth, while Bottas was stuck behind Ericsson in thirteenth. A few more laps passed with Vettel taking Sergio Pérez, Romain Grosjean, Leclerc and Sainz with successive moves at the chicane, while Bottas somewhat hobbled along losing half a second or so the German with every lap.
Indeed, the race would soon settle around lap 20, with Vettel up into fifth and Bottas slowly climbing up through the top ten. Out front, meanwhile, Hamilton had established a very healthy lead over Verstappen, with both having enough of an advantage over Vettel to pit and rejoin ahead of him. Ricciardo, meanwhile, was on the verge of having the same luxury, while Räikkönen was battling against his early delays to get on terms with the Australian.
A few laps later and Verstappen set the ball rolling with the stops on lap 25, swapping out his supersoft Pirellis for softs before rejoining ahead of Vettel. Ricciardo, meanwhile, would wait a couple more laps before making his stop, although his final burst was not enough for him to rejoin ahead of the German. Further stops saw Pérez drag his sick sounding Force India in at the same time as the Australian, while Leclerc came in for a set of supersofts on lap 31 having slipped to tenth.
Hamilton swept in for his stop at the end of lap 33, handing the lead to Räikkönen as the Mercedes team bolted a set of softs to his car. The Brit duly rejoined in second ahead of Verstappen, while Vettel lost out to Ricciardo as the Australian racer threw his Red Bull up the inside of the Ferrari into turn eleven. Räikkönen, meanwhile, would stop at the end of the following lap, rejoining a handful of seconds behind teammate Vettel but ahead of the now sixth placed Bottas.
Elsewhere, Leclerc was on the warpath on his new set of supersofts, putting Alonso to the sword with a dive into the chicane on the Mistral to claim thirteenth. Alonso's McLaren teammate Vandoorne would also lose out, getting overtaken by Magnussen, before Leclerc sent his Sauber diving past Hartley to regain tenth after a stop for Hülkenberg. Up ahead, meanwhile, Räikkönen drafted up behind teammate Vettel and passed without any resistance, while Bottas abandoned his heavily abused softs for a set of supersofts at the end of lap 39.
Vettel would also give up on his softs at the end of the following lap, serving his five second penalty as he did so to head back out on a set of ultras. However, whereas the German racer had a huge gap behind him to rejoin in fifth, Bottas would drop to ninth after the rear-jack failed during his stop. At the back, meanwhile, Vandoorne would send his McLaren blasting past Lance Stroll into the chicane, before narrowly avoiding getting wiped out by the Canadian youngster as the Williams locked up heading into the corner.
Into the closing stages and Ricciardo looked to have picked up an issue, for he was falling away from teammate Verstappen and dropping into the sights of Räikkönen. Ultimately, the Australian racer was suffering from a gradual failure of his front wing structure, which was getting worse as the race went on. Yet with only a handful of laps to go there was a chance that he could keep Räikkönen at bay, if he had enough luck through the traffic.
Naturally it was the reverse for Ricciardo as he and Räikkönen came to lap the backmarkers, for Stroll decided to ignore the Red Bull in his mirrors for more than half a lap. Indeed, Ricciardo ran in to Williams' wake from the start of the Mistral until the penultimate corner, before elbowing his way past, with Räikkönen having to wait until the DRS zone into turn one to lap the Canadian. Yet, that delay was not enough to make up for the time that Ricciardo had lost, with Räikkönen well within DRS range of the Red Bull.
A lap later and Räikkönen launched his assault, trying a move around the outside of the #3 Red Bull into turn one and then again into turn three. The latter move put Ricciardo off line through the following complex, and duly compromised his run onto the Mistral a few corners later. That, combined with DRS, allowed the Finn to blast past in spite of Ricciardo's decision to go defensive early, before Räikkönen duly blasted away to deny Ricciardo an immediate response.
The final laps would see Sainz suddenly lose power while running in sixth, an electrical failure of some description costing him a severe amount of straight line speed. That allowed Magnussen, and a charging Bottas, to flash past the Renault racer with five laps to go, with Sainz set to lose further places with Lelerc and Hülkenberg incoming. Yet, just a lap later the race was effectively settled, for a VSC was required to pick up the debris from a late tyre failure for Stroll. Elsewhere, Alonso suffered an unrelated suspension failure in the middle of the VSC period, although he limped around to complete the race.
The race would restart with half a lap to go although that was of no consequence, leaving Hamilton to cruise home to claim his first victory on French soil. Verstappen was a lonely second ahead of Räikkönen, while Ricciardo was a secure fourth well ahead of Vettel. Behind him came Magnussen, having survived Bottas' late assault into turn eleven, with Sainz, Hülkenberg and Leclerc completing the scorers.
The full race results for the 2018 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Sirotkin was given a five-second time penalty for slowing down unnecessarily during the safety car.
Images and Videos:
- 'Pirelli becomes title sponsor of Formula 1 2018 Grand Prix de France', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Limited, 25/04/2018), https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2018/4/pirelli-becomes-title-sponsor-of-formula-1-2018-grand-prix-de-fr.html, (Accessed 26/04/2018)
- Adam Cooper, '2018 Formula 1 calendar revised as Chinese and Bahrain GPs swap', autosport.com, (Motorsport Network, 29/09/2017), https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/132087/2018-formula-1-calendar-revised, (Accessed 04/04/2018)
- 'FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE 2018', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Limited, 2018), https://www.formula1.com/en/championship/races/2018/france.html, (Accessed 13/06/2018)
- Jonathan Noble, 'Renault captures Mercedes design man', motorsport.com, (Motorsport Network, 14/06/2018), https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/renault-captures-mercedes-design-man-1046046/, (Accessed 14/06/2018)
- Jamie Klein, 'Le Mans 24h: Toyota breaks curse, Alonso wins on debut', motorsport.com, (Motorsport Network, 17/06/2018), https://www.motorsport.com/lemans/news/le-mans-24h-race-report-toyota-victory-alonso-1046504/, (Accessed 17/06/2018)
- Andrew Benson, 'Red Bull to switch from Renault to Honda from 2019 season', bbc.co.uk/sport, (British Broadcasting Company, 19/06/2018), https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1/44530950, (|(Accessed 19/06/2018)
- Scott Mitchell, 'Red Bull stands out in French GP tyre picks', motorsport.com, (Motorsport Network, 12/06/2018), https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/red-bull-conservative-french-gp-tyres-1045830/, (Accessed 13/06/2018)
- 'Pirelli reduces tread depth for Barcelona, Silverstone & Paul Ricard', formula1.com, (Formula One World Championship Limited, 07/04/2018), https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2018/4/pirelli-reduces-tread-depth-for-barcelona--silverstone---paul-ri.html, (Accessed 26/04/2018)
- "2018 French Grand Prix – Practice 1 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 22 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/986/france/practice-1.html. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
- "2018 French Grand Prix – Practice 2 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 22 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/986/france/practice-2.html. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
- "2018 French Grand Prix – Practice 3 results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 23 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/986/france/practice-3.html. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- "2018 French Grand Prix – Qualifying results". Formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 23 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/986/france/qualifying.html. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- "Hartley to start from back in France". Formula1.com (FOM). 23 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/headlines/2018/6/hartley-set-to-start-from-back-in-france.html. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- "France Grand Prix 2018 Race Results". formula1.com (Formula One Administration). 24 June 2018. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/2018/races/986/france/race-result.html. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- '8. France 2018', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2018), http://www.statsf1.com/en/2018/france.aspx, (Accessed 13/06/2018)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
Circuit Paul Ricard (1971, 1973, 1975–1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–1983, 1985–1990, 2018–2019)
Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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